Sunday, 31 January 2021
On meeting a snake in Kenya A few years ago, on a regular work trip to Kenya, after the usual international counselling conference – which was as ever stunning and humbling to hear of the amazing work being done – I was taken off on a weekend away to a rather comfortable campsite on a small island in the middle of a lake. I had a very comfortable tent to myself with a real bed and a shower. Late afternoon walking into my tent I noticed a colourful snake. I carefully edged out and rain to reception and the manager came back with me to the tent. The snake had taken off but the manager assured me it was not poisonous. I eventually managed to sleep that night! Later the next day as my colleagues were having an afternoon nap I scoured the bookshelves for something to read. I came across a nature book with a chapter on snakes and low and behold I found my snake. And it was poisonous! I found the manager again and this time he said Yes it was poisonous and had it bit me I would have been dead before they got me to the mainland hospital!
Monday, 25 January 2021
On meeting a tree in Alex Park In the winter of 1970 when I was in my final year at the University of Manchester me and my girl friend split up and soon after I moved into a bedsit in Whalley Range and had a miserable time for about 3 months. I nearly quit my course – Computer Science – and indeed missed the mock exams just after Christmas. I walked around the streets and Alexandra Park restlessly. I remember walking late night about 3am when I couldn’t sleep and being stunned by the dawn chorus. Then one day in March I was walking in Alex Park and a tree was light up with the energy of Spring. This touched me deeply- I would now say to my very soul - and raised my spirits. This was a turning point for me in more ways than one. I had been touched by nature before. The first time I saw the Highlands of Scotland in Summer 1969 I felt a love but this tree had a deeper effect on me. I spoke to my cousin Ben who was doing Literature and he said ‘Wordsworth’. He was right Wordsworth spoke to my condition, to use a Quaker phrase. And like Wordsworth nature became my teacher. Later I would become aware of the energies present at sacred sites and religious buildings. (And of course, the energies between people but that is another story!). A few months later I was walking near my family home in Habberley Valley and nature was around me and a voice speaks inside me and says ‘Love is the essence of being’. I didn’t understand what these words meant at the time and perhaps I still only provisionally understand. My religious beliefs, my personal theology, as it were, comes from my encounter with this tree. It took me a long time to reconcile these experiences of mine and their impact on me with religion but again another story.